Egypt's National Team (Photo: Reuters)
Egypt are likely to battle it out with Nigeria for a place at the 2017 African Cup of Nations after both sides were paired in G of the qualifiers as the draw was held in Cairo on Wednesday.
The group also includes minnows Chad and Tanzania. The winners of the 13 groups will directly qualify for the 2017 Nations Cup finals in Gabon along with the best two second-placed teams.
Egypt will start their qualifying campaign away to Tanzania in mid-June before playing Chad on the road in September. They then host Nigeria in March 2016.
The Pharaohs, who named veteran Argentinean coach Hector Cuper as their new boss, are seeking to end a barren run that saw them set an unwanted record of failing to qualify for the biennial tournament three times in a row.
They won a record-extending seventh title in 2010 in Angola to complete a hat-trick of straight Nations Cup triumphs but have been on a downward slide since, with a political upheaval following the toppling of autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011 taking its toll on the team.
The retirement of some key players such as talismanic playmaker Mohamed Abou-Treika and rock-solid defender Wael Gomaa as well as the dip in form of others left Egypt with no alternatives, with the repeated interruption of the domestic league making life hard for any coach at the helm to pick new faces.
Egypt beat Nigeria in their last competitive meeting, prevailing with a 3-1 group-stage win at the 2010 Nations Cup before going on to lift the trophy. Their last friendly match was in 2012 when Egypt secured a 3-2 victory in the United Arab Emirates.
They crushed Tanzania 5-1 in their last friendly match in 2010 and routed Chad 4-0 two years later in another exhibition game.
Egypt gave Cuper, who helped Valencia reach the UEFA Champions League final twice in 2000 and 2001, a winning start after beating Equatorial Guinea 2-0 in home friendly last month, thanks to two late goals from Zamalek striker Bassem Morsi and Ahly midfielder Mahmoud Trezeguet.
The 59-year-old said recently he would select new players in Egypt's squad following the resumption of the Premier League, which was suspended following a Cairo football disaster that left 20 Zamalek fans dead on 8 February.
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